AWS – Trusted landing zone for modernizing Microsoft workloads

By | 7 minute read | September 15, 2021

Cloud adoption is no longer a buzzword, but rather it is the new normal for all organizations that are going digital. We will focus on demystifying an assumption that takes center stage when customers want to embark the cloud journey: “I am running MS workloads predominantly and AWS may not be the best option for hosting them on the cloud.” This is not always true when you take into consideration the four major aspects of any infrastructure that supports the applications running on them: reliability, performance, cost and security.

Typical Challenges

Organizations want to be agile when it comes to launching new products and reduce their time to market, regardless of geographical locations. This requires a robust platform that supports a cloud-native architecture. As we are aware, there are many mission-critical applications running today on Microsoft legacy platforms like .NET framework (until 4.0) and old SQL engines. This reality poses multiple challenges on new innovations, as they are not scalable with its complex, closely-coupled architecture and cannot be easily integrated with new services. This will require reengineering, as managing legacy applications can be a costly affair and doesn’t add any value to the modern business. Cloud can be the primary choice here, as it offers the platform that enables workloads to be re-engineered with its built-in capabilities.

How AWS and IBM come together

There are multiple options of different hyper scalers in the market today to help customers with this journey. It may be surprising, but AWS has been running Microsoft workloads for the last 13 years, which is longer than any other major cloud provider. AWS runs 2x more Windows server instances than the next largest hyper scaler, and an IDC study shows that organizations are saving the running cost of around 50% over a period of 5 years. Built with better reliability using its multi-availability zones and geographical regions, AWS had 7x fewer incidents of downtime since 2018 than its next largest competitor. AWS also runs SQL server 2x faster than other cloud providers. IBM, with its Garage Methodology for Cloud and delivery curator framework, along with AWS native services, helps businesses to modernize their MS workloads by leveraging the capabilities provided at each stage of cloud journey as depicted below.

Enterprise Windows Modernization Journey on AWS using IBM Garage methodology

We will go into detail to show how this modernization journey works with a typical cloud transformation. AWS and IBM can collaborate to help our clients innovate with Microsoft workloads by adopting the AWS well-architected framework.

Adopt & Accelerate

AWS helps customers right from the start, helping them to strategize and envision the target to-be state by creating a business case for existing Microsoft workloads running in your  data center. It has various tools like Migration Evaluator (erstwhile TSO logic) and offers a wide option of third-party solutions available in marketplace. IBM’s agentless data collection and code analysis engine for Java, .NET, etc., on the delivery curator platform along, with these discovery solutions, can provide the right approach to moving the workloads and optimizing cost, thereby reducing 30%- 40% TCO. Depending on the type of Windows workloads and the complexity, AWS can offer private, hybrid and public models using AWS outposts, VMC on AWS and native, respectively.

Be it a greenfield or brownfield implementation, IBM has best-in-class automation capabilities using its DevOps Commander and cloud-native tools for building a robust foundation with all security and compliance guardrails through IaC, control tower, AWS organizations, and more. AWS also has various migration acceleration programs like MRA, MAP that provides incentives, which will lower the overall cost of migration and help customers move their MS workloads rapidly. IBM’s proven factory-based approach along with tools like Application Migration Services (erstwhile CloudEndure), SMS, DMS, etc., can perform mass migration of different types of workloads in a factory model with maximum reliability at a lesser cost. In a nutshell, AWS and IBM bring platform, tools and process together to shift Microsoft workloads into the cloud with great agility, driving better business outcomes outlined below.

  1. Agility through rapid assessments and mass migrations
  2. Robust and secured platform to build business resiliency
  3. Highly cost-effective adoption using best-in-class migration programs

Simplify

One of the most important driving factors of Cloudification is cost, but moving workloads “as is” into the cloud will only increase the cost. Optimizing or right sizing the Microsoft workloads, including licenses, is very critical and AWS has wide variety of solutions in this space. Most of the workloads running on-premises are over-provisioned, and the right assessment can reduce the price on storage, hardware and license in the target environment. One of the biggest innovations from AWS is License manager, which can look at the licensing aspects of the customer’s existing workloads. This will reduce the overhead of over buying, underutilization and perform consolidations of the same. Customers and partners can procure Microsoft licenses directly from AWS as well, but if they already have the licenses AWS can bring in better value for customers’ MS workloads using a Windows BYOL program and manage SQL license through control plane integration. This will also eliminate the need of a for a separate team to monitor license management and improve productivity by utilizing them for other business innovation needs. AWS provides various other right sizing techniques through native options/services like Reserved/Spot Instances, compute optimizer, instance scheduler, Trusted Advisor, and more to optimize the workloads that are running on the platform, thereby:

  1. Innovating through continuous optimization and improve financial posture.
  2. Better Improving ROI by maximizing investments and spend management to grow business faster

Being Cloud Native

We spoke about reliability, cost and other aspects of running Windows workloads on AWS, but we cannot reap the complete benefits of cloud without addressing the performance aspect. Moving into the cloud and performing optimization of workloads, requires actual cloud native capabilities to boost real innovation and scalability, thereby providing business value for customers. There are many capabilities that AWS offers from a platform, tools and services perspective to modernize Microsoft workloads. For example, AWS has come up with managed AD for Windows workloads that supports single sign on in cloud and on-premises for applications like Office 365, and more. Windows Fsx for file servers is another managed service that will give robust support for file servers on cloud. To help innovate at a faster pace, there are more than 48 advanced services in AWS that bring interoperability along with best-in-class integration mechanisms around these services.

As we are aware, data holds the key in the digital world, managing databases on cloud is paramount for any organization that is hosting their data and applications on MS platforms like SQL and .NET. AWS is a pioneer in this critical space by providing various platforms to support and host the same. Depending on the type of workloads and the supported migration approach, SQL databases can be migrated to AWS in an IaaS model (As-Is to SQL on EC2) or replatform the same to a PaaS (RDS) model. AWS also offers the right platform to reengineer SQL workloads and host them on Linux and container platforms running on ECS or EKS using EC2 containers/Fargate. This will have a direct impact on improving performance and reducing TCO through right sizing.

Another important aspect is the extensive support offered by AWS for running .NET applications on various platforms. We can seamlessly migrate .NET applications to Elastic Beanstalk from traditional IIS that will improve scalability of applications using AWS Windows Web application Migration Assistant. We can also replatform legacy .NET applications into Windows containers using the AWS App2Container tool for faster deployment, increased elasticity, and more. AWS offers .NET 5 development platforms using inbuilt SDK’s and a support .NET core framework to adopt a microservices architecture and containerize the workloads. Performance can be further optimized by moving the application into a serverless architecture. .NET 5 is also supported on AWS serverless by running the same using AWS Lambda that precisely distributes compute execution power and runs your code based on the incoming request or event, for any scale of traffic. These are huge steps towards shifting the applications into cloud native that is scalable and API driven. Hence, customers who are running Microsoft workloads can easily adopt DevOps through AWS CI-CD to perform robust application lifecycle management using inbuilt integration with CloudWatch monitoring and automated operations through AWS Systems Manager. Last but not the least, AWS offers many pre-configured Microsoft AMI’s including advanced ML for Windows and a dedicated windows service desk for better management and to handle operational issues effectively and efficiently.

Microsoft Workload Modernization Path in AWS

Typical value businesses realize by from modernizing workloads includes:

  1. Next-generation business transformation through greater integrations and a simplified operating model
  2. Business process optimization enabled through DevOps-based application lifecycle management (faster time to market with reduced app onboarding time)
  3. A highly optimized, cost effective, scalable and cloud-native architecture helps customers in fast tracking digital reinvention

As we discussed in depth and breadth about running Microsoft workloads on cloud, AWS can easily be the primary choice as the platform provider for any customer who wants to move their mission-critical applications running on MS platforms. Along with the hyper scaler, IBM also brings many assets, tools and accelerators across the modernization journey to achieve velocity, cost effectiveness and robust governance. This modernization journey will not only reduce the overall cost for customers, but it will also improve their performance, reliability, scalability, and security, thereby increasing their profitability, business agility and growth.